View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

In their search for ever-more-exotic names for SUVs and other vehicles, the auto manufacturers have not only gone overboard, they're now paddling away from the ship. Remember when "Suburban" was exotic? Then, the SUVs and trucks all had Western, or Last Frontier-type names: Bronco, Tacoma, Dakota, Cheyenne (or something like that), Denali, Yukon. Even though the Yukon was just a souped-up Suburban, and the Tacoma was Japanese, and reminded people from DC of Takoma Park, which wants to be Berkeley or Boulder, and certainly has the nutcases to make a go of it, but lacks the mountains, foothills, ocean, and university.

But the last two names I've seen have brought me up short. First, the Marano. (If it were spelled Morono, I could accuse the car companies of shamelessly pandering to the Democrats.) Now that sounds nice and Italian. But "Marrano" is a slang term for Jews who converted and practiced secretly rather than be thrown out of Spain and Portugal under that Defender of the Faith, Isabella. I had noticed thet Ford had named SUVs Explorer, Excursion, and Expedition, and had figured that when they came out with one targeted at the Jewish market it would be called the Expulsion, but Marrano offers the possibility of staying here, and thus being able to find original parts.

Then, yesterday, I'm informed that some company, possibly Volkwagon, has named their latest little creation the Touareg. What's a Touareg? Well, the Tuaregs are nomadic desert bandits who inhabit the central and southern Sahara. William Langewiesche writes about them in Sahara Unveiled, a terrific travel book about his journey from the Mediterranean south. The Tuaregs terrorized camel caravans, and even latter-day travelers, but recently have had some competition, and not too many travelers make it that far south any more. So that's just what I want to be driving. I want to identify myself with land-based relatives of the Berbers, that Stephen Decatur took out 200 years ago.

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